Turning off the music and up the lights may not seem conducive to creating the right ambience for diners seeking an enjoyable night out. But there are many people – namely the 10 million deaf and hard of hearing – who would welcome this more considerate approach, says ATLA.
As part of Lipreading Awareness Week – 12-19 September 2016 – we will be is asking restaurants to choose a day to invite their customers to ‘come and enjoy their taste in food, not their taste in music’.
In return ATLA will give participating restaurants some basic deaf awareness training for their staff, a poster to display of their local lipreading class and a press release template to send to the local media.
It’s a way that restaurants can show to their community that they are thinking about potential customers’ needs and it could help to generate new business, says ATLA’s vice-chair Molly Berry.
“The silver pound is very important to restaurateurs and Lipreading Awareness Week is a good time to ask yourself if your restaurant is welcoming this business. Getting this right could earn your business a lot of money, with nearly half of people aged 65-plus having some form of hearing loss,” says Molly.
The problem that people with hearing aids have is that their devices amplify sound, including all the background noise, and the sound gets distorted by echo. For this reason ATLA is asking restaurants to reduce this echo or bouncing of sound on hard surfaces by using tablecloths, the wipe clean variety is fine and preferably with under cloths, to cushion the effect.
Longer term, ATLA would like restaurants to introduce more soft furnishings: curtains, cushions and carpet, or where this is impractical, easy to clean rubber flooring. Alcoves, booths and room dividers also help shut out unwanted noise, even if it’s just to head height. And acoustic ceiling tiles, supplied by specialist companies, are effective in making it easier to hear, for customers whether they have a problem or not.
Also, good lighting is important so lipreaders can see the face of the person speaking. And personal loop systems, which enable hearing aid users to hear just what is said within the range of the device, are available for a very reasonable cost. It is worth having one or two hearing loops available for anyone who requests them, says Molly, ensuring customers know they are on site.
“Many hard of hearing people avoid going to restaurants because it’s just too difficult for them to follow conversations and pick out the sounds they want to hear,” says Molly. “But minimum investment can fix this and make a restaurant a much more pleasant environment for everyone to hear each other and hold conversations in, not just the hard of hearing.”